Idris Elba has a unique name, and has acted with a variety of different accents. Many people have trouble placing Elba’s origins and are curious about his citizenship. Many people believe he’s American and are surprised when they find out he isn’t.
Idrissa Akuna Elba does not have any familial ties to Jamaica. He was born in the Hackney area of London, England in 1972 to a father from Sierra Leone and a mother from Ghana.
He may not have any immediate family from Jamaica but it holds a piece of his heart. His directorial debut was for the film Yardie, which was based on a novel and centers around a Jamaican who ends up going to London. He read the book when he was younger and loved it, so he jumped at the chance to direct the movie when it came about.
Winston Elba is from Sierra Leone, a country on the southwest coast of West Africa with a population of over 7 million people.
Between 15 and 20 different ethnic groups make up the country, the numbers depend on how the breakdown of ethnic groups is recorded. For instance, some people use language as a group, while others break that down even further and single out dialects of the same language as different groups.
Though there is archaeological evidence that the country has been around for over 2500 years, and is part of West Africa, in Africa, it wasn’t until 1961 that it gained its independence from British rule.
Idris Elba holds dual citizenship, as he has both a British and Sierra Leonean passport. Dual Citizenship is when a person holds a passport for two countries at once.
These days it’s not unheard of for people to have dual citizenship, especially for actors, who sometimes will pick up American citizenship to make working easier for them when they want to be part of Hollywood. This wasn’t Elba’s reasoning though. It wasn’t always easy for someone to get dual citizenship.
As recently as 1960 62% of countries around the world didn’t agree with dual citizenship. Many heads of countries felt that if someone wanted another citizenship then they should have to renounce their original citizenship. Through the years, a lot of people gave up their original passports for newer ones so that they could have better lives for themselves and their families.
By 2020 the views on dual citizenship relaxed quite a bit, with 76% of the world’s countries accepting dual citizenship without needing to renounce their country of origin. 66% of those countries will allow for people to denounce their original country if they so choose. However, 10% of the countries that allow dual citizenship won’t allow denouncing of the country, even if the dual citizen wants to.
Bit of a Shock
People have often had a hard time placing Elba’s accent, and that was when he was speaking with an American accent. Before making it big, when he was still out auditioning for parts, he would always talk with an American accent, so at first, not many people knew he was British.
It wasn’t until the fourth audition for a pilot called The Wire, for which he got the part when one of the executives asked which part of the United States he was from as he couldn’t place the accent. He came clean and told them that he was from London and the executive couldn’t believe it, he thought he was American.
Growing up in Hackney, especially during the eighties, Elba had a fascination with America. I’m sure he wasn’t alone in that thinking as a lot of people, of all ages, love the opportunities that America brings.
He moved to New York in 2001 when he was 29 years old. Though he loves America, and the opportunity it gave him, picking up his first big role in 2002, he’s very proud of his roots and has dropped talking in the American accent all the time.